Archive for January 2016

In 2014, The Society of Hair Testing acknowledged a current consensus regarding the use of hair strands as a method to determining alcohol consumption in the body. This revised Alcohol Marker Consensus advises that, although hair drug testing can be used to test specific alcohol levels, there are conditions related to both method and results.

How is Hair Used to Determine Levels of Alcohol?

When testing for the alcohol level, a hair sample must be taken and then examined for the degree of ethanol metabolites present in that sample: these metabolites are manifested when alcohol is metabolised. The testing of ethanol cannot be employed in the analysis of alcohol levels as it is exceedingly unstable, and liable to be contaminated by external sources.

EtG and FAEE Tests

There are currently two different forms of tests recognised in their ability to determine levels of alcohol consumed by using a hair sample: these are the tests for EtG levels and FAEE levels.

EtG markers, or ethyl glucuronide markers, are hydrophilic, meaning they love water. These are incorporated into a person’s hair by sweat, therefore they are increasingly inclined to be washed out by shampooing.

FAEE markers, or fatty acid ethyl esters, however, are lilophilic, meaning they love fat: this is acknowledged to pertain to their ability to resist being washed out, although they can be affected by certain cosmetic treatments such as bleaching, dyeing or perming. This is understood to be because many modern hair treatments contain ethanol, thereby reducing the levels of EtG and FAEE found in the hair.

The Sample Material

The hair samples can be either 3 or 6 centimetres in length: customarily there will be 200 different hairs in these samples. The location from which the sample has been taken is considered important: generally hair is taken from the crown of the head, as this will cover approximately the last 3-6 months of the person’s alcohol levels. It is possible to acquire these samples from different areas of the body, although it is largely acknowledged that armpit hair and pubic hair are not viable for the testing of EtG markers.

Advantages of Testing for Alcohol Levels Using Hair

There are many advantages of using hair samples to test levels of alcohol consumed by a person.

While blood tests are an exceedingly well established method of testing alcohol levels, alcohol is generally only present in the body for 24 to 48 hours after it is last consumed. A large advantage of testing hair is that in most cases it can show the level of alcohol consumed in a 3 to 6 month period, and sometimes up to 12 months.

This method of alcohol testing is a less-invasive procedure than blood testing: many people have a phobia of needles and medical instruments, whereas hair tests only require for hair to be plucked from the head.

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